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Tihati's Polynesian pizzazz
Vol. 5, No. 5
October/November 2002


Farm Fresh  


story by Bonnie Friedman
photos by Dana Edmunds

Chef James McDonald

Next time you order fresh fish steamed in arugula at Pacific’O, or lobster salad with Bloomsdale Long-Standing spinach at Io, take a moment to appreciate the fact that the flavors you’re savoring are truly home-grown. While many Hawaii restaurateurs have long worked with local farmers to obtain the freshest of Island ingredients, the owners of these two cutting-edge Lahaina eateries are the first to start their own farm, intended to both supply the restaurants and make good use of precious agricultural land.

"It’s a long-term commitment to the land and to our business," says partner Louis Coulombe, who describes the eight-acre farm in upcountry Kula as "a work in progress." Already growing at the farm are copious varieties of greens and herbs, Maui onions, leeks, beets, tomatoes, peppers and edible flowers—all making their way onto diners’ plates. Two orchards of citrus, apple and stone-fruit trees, cinnamon and curry, exotic hybrids like "pluots"—a cross between plum and apricot—and juicy, blood-red elephant-heart plums are taking hold, along with asparagus, a variety of berries, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, and fifty grapevines—mostly zinfandel, with some cabernet and merlot.


When the seed idea for the farm first began to take root, the restaurants’ partners—Coloumbe, Stephan Bel-Robert and executive chef James McDonald—recruited the agronomic expertise of Robbie Vorfeld, the former manager of the Pioneer sugar mill, who now runs the mill’s diversified-agriculture project. The long-term goal is for the restaurants to be "produce self-sufficient." Already, more than a quarter of their supply comes from the Kula property. "Any chef’s dream is to be able to control what comes in the door," says young McDonald of his farm. "To have such a personal connection to it is that much better."

Pacific’O (808) 667-4341
Io (808) 661-8422